Hi, my name is Tristan, and I have been working at Donni’s house. Donni is truly a remarkable person as she is provides a loving, stable and caring home to many children who have had to endure abusive households, constantly moving, and in homes unequipped to take care of them. She now has six children living at home, but has fostered many more. The projects my crew undertook was a series of odd jobs around the house ranging from making and painting shutters, to painting rooms, but the odd thing was no matter what project you were on you also had a secondary job. That job was to talk to the kids and make friends. As it turns out that job was far more important than any physical repairs or work that we were doing, as Donni and her kids were sorely lacking human contact. Donni explained to us that many of her children had been bullied at school and have been unable to make friends. One of her children was so afraid of the new people working on the house he hid underneath a boat in the backyard. This was truly remarkable to me because it reminded me that being rich in friends and connections and people is far superior to being rich in material wealth.
Hello! My name is Gabi. For the past few days, I have been a part of the crew working at the home of a woman named Donni. Donni is an amazing person! She currently has six kids living under her roof, but cares for many more during the day. Most of our work this week consisted of painting, building shutters, and a few other projects around her house. At first the work didn’t seem like much, but this allowed us a chance to hear more of Donni’s story. She shared stories about her kids and how much of an impact we have in their lives. She explained that even though our work was a huge help to her, the fact that we were at her home spending time with her kids, who don’t necessarily have many strong friendships, made a greater difference in their lives. One of the things we remember most is from our daily lunch devotionals, Donni taught us the lesson she teaches her kids. She told us to be history-makers. This doesn’t mean that we have to change the world; it just means that every day we should strive to brighten someone’s day, which could be as simple as a smile.
Hello ladies and gentlemen, tis I, Kaleb, here with a tale of strength, heroism and God’s almighty power. I am a part of the crew working on the pavilion this week that has included lots and lots of hole digging. Yesterday, we had finally reached our final hole, which unfortunately had been previously filled with cement when the hole wasn’t yet deep enough. So, three of us were tasked with getting the hole deep enough to allow room for the post. One of the Next Step interns had the idea of sledgehammering a spud bar deep into the cement with the hope of cracking it up so we could just pull out the broken pieces. Great idea, right? Wrong. Nick, one of our fearless leaders, hammered the bar deep into the cement and we were feeling good about our plan until we tried to take the spud bar out. Believe it or not, trying to yank a spud bar out of 4 inches of hardened cement is not as easy as it may seem. I’m talking sword-in-the-stone Excalibur stuck, that boy wasn’t coming out. We set out to try and remove the bar and almost everyone in the worksite gave it a try but to no avail. By now, lunch was growing nearer, it was getting hotter and hotter outside and it seemed all hope was lost. Then, out of nowhere came a cloud and we were blessed with some shade. A feeling came over all of us and we knew the time had come to remove the sword from the stone. Will started going at it, yanking and pulling and twisting the bar all around with the rest of us yelling encouragement for him. Then, the bar came up and we all lost it. Our mission was completed. Now, I tell you that to tell you this, God was very present at our worksite in that moment. Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and you best believe the Joplin story of King Arthur (Will) and Excalibur (the spud bar) shows his mighty power and glory.
Working with the kids in Journey Church’s VBS has been amazing! We lead the children from the community in games, Bible lessons, crafts, and, the best part, snacks!! My favorite part so far was on Tuesday when we ended up with a lot of extra time and nothing to do. We didn’t have much space, but many of the kids were asking to play the game Sardines (A game similar to hide-and-seek except one person hides and the rest of the players search). A couple other student leaders and myself exchanged questioning looks because the game requires a lot of space and we had barely any space. But alas, since the kids were so pumped to play the game, we decided to go along with it. The kids played for about ten minutes before it was time to go but in that time they easily completed a world record amount of games. They would count down from ten, sprint to the obviously “hidden” player, and then do it all over again!
It was amazing to see because I realized that my perspective kept me from seeing the potential of games whereas the kids’ saw it as possibly the best ten minutes of their day!
Crew #1 and 2 are working across the street from Journey Church where we are staying. We are continuing work on a pavilion for the community. The crew is pushing through the heat and humidity to dig footing holes for post. We were able to get them done by the end of day 2 which we were all happy about. We make sure to take breaks with popsicles and go back to the church for some AC breaks.
After lunch a small group of the crew stays at the church and leads K-5 students in a VBS program. Our day 2 Bible lesson was on Jesus bring Lazarus back to life and learning how to wait and trust in God’s plan which is not easy at all. We also play games and have craft time with the kids. On Monday, a couple of the crewmembers made an obstacle course for the kids to go through using some small objects. The craft time was cool for day 2, we helped the kids tie dye shirts.
Today was our first day of work and we have three crews. One crew went to Donni’s house, one went to God’s Resort, and another stayed at the church to work outside at the garden and the pavilion. Our devotion today was about how we all have questions for God, and how God wants us to be honest with ourselves and each other about our questions and doubts. The group working at God’s Resort started construction on apartment buildings, and the group at Donni’s house worked on painting one of her daughter’s rooms. After work, the team went to the Joplin Tornado Memorial and learned more about the horrific tragedy that struck this city. Today, I worked at God’s Resort, a transitional housing place, and I am feeling very blessed for my family and friends, because today opened my eyes and made me realize there are many people who don’t have a stable home. God is already doing amazing things here in Joplin in day one, and I can’t wait for day 2!